Climate Action, Codes, Specialist|

California is a world leader in decarbonization of the built environment.   Building codes can be locally amended to support climate action via what are called ‘reach codes’.  When Berkeley became the first City in the US to ‘ban natural gas’ [1] in mid 2019, it made headlines around the world.  Today, there are nearly three dozen Cities and Counties in California[2] that have taken similar measures.  Each of these communities has taken their climate action planning to the arena of codes and regulations, recognizing that this is the path to make broad and comprehensive change in the built environment.

Architects design virtually every new and retrofit commercial, institutional, and high density residential project in California.  The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is the voice of design professionals, and the 11,000 members of the AIA California support the development of coordinated, comprehensive and contemporary building codes and standards to both protect the public health safety and welfare, and to support the investment that revitalizes and reshapes our built infrastructure to be efficient, resilient and high performing. [3]

The AIA CA supports decarbonization of the built environment, and the reach codes that have allowed such rapid movement forward in supporting climate action.  We also believe that these objectives will be more efficiently served when there are uniform, nationally vetted standards put into place to achieve them.  One such national standard is the ZeroCode, developed by the non-profit Architecture 2030 organization, a world leader in climate action innovation.  This code has been officially vetted and approved to be an appendix in the International Energy Conservation Code for 2021.  [4]

[1] Berkeley first US City to ban natural gas

[2] Reach Code References: locations with existing reach codes;

Process outline for adopting local standards:

Electrification Reach code cities

Reach Code best practices and toolkit

[3] Policies and Position Statements of the American Institute of Architects

To further its climate action plan, AIA California assisted Architecture 2030 in modification of the ‘national’ version of the ZeroCarbon Code to more specifically align with our California reach code landscape: the 2022 ZeroCode for California.   This document lives on the Architecture 2030 website as a free and open source tool.[5]  We believe is important to incorporate into our California Building Codes a framework that creates additional consistency in zero carbon reach codes, while at the same time connecting that with a nationally vetted reference.  This is the basis for the AIA CA petition to the California Building Standards Commission to reference the 2022 ZeroCode for California in the California Building Code, Part 11, commonly called CalGreen.

As proposed, this code change would make the 2022 ZeroCode California’s first zero carbon compliance tool readily available as an optional tier for local adoption.

For jurisdictions not wanting to wait for the next code cycle, the 2022 ZeroCode for California is available for adoption today, bringing a new level of consistency to our decarbonization reach code environment, which will support lowered costs, reduced uncertainty, greater ease in application, and consistency in enforcement.

[4] Zero Code Renewable Energy Appendix Added to the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code  Announcement | July 2020

[5] The 2020 Zero Code for California

Outline of Proposed Code Changes

Amend Title24 Part 11 California Green Building Standards Code

Appendix A5 Nonresidential Voluntary Measures

Modify Section A5.211 Renewable Energy  as follows:

Add new text as follows:

Section A5.211.4 Zero Carbon

Section A5.211.4.1 Performance Standard

Conform to the requirements of the Zero Code for California (ZCC) found at  The ZCC includes both prescriptive and performance paths to compliance referencing the current California Building Energy Standards. 


Division 5.2 Energy Efficiency

Add new text as follows:

Elective    Zero Carbon              Code Section A5.211.4, A5.211.4.1


Division 5.2 Energy Efficiency

Add new text as follows:

Elective    Zero Carbon              Code Section A5.211.4, A5.211.4.1

How can you Help?

The AIA CA welcomes letters of support for our code change petition.  A CC to the AIA CA would be appreciated:

California Building Standards Commission

Mia Marvelli

Executive Director, California Building Standards Commission



Nicki Dennis Stephens Hon. AIA CA

AIA California
AIA California
AIA California is dedicated to serving its members, and uniting all architecture professionals in the design of a more just, equitable and resilient future through advocacy, education and political action. It celebrates more than 75 years of service and, today, is composed of more than 11,000 members across the state.

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